West Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA Maolíósa McHugh has described an assault by loyalists against a republican memorial site in Strabane as a hate crime.
He said: “Three males alighted from of a white Corsa car at the republican memorial site in memory of IRA volunteers Charles Breslin, Michael and David Devine at the junction of Fountain Street and Innisfree Gardens in the town.
“They smashed a memorial board with the images of the three volunteers adjacent to the stone monument and while unsuccessful in getting it into the car upon being disturbed and challenged by local people they did succeed in stealing the National Flag from the flagpole at the site. As they made off they shouted “Up The UVF” but not before people were able to get the registration of the car. I was subsequently made aware that a car and assailants fitting the same description were earlier involved in the theft of Donegal flags from commercial premises in Lifford and that they were caught on CCTV.”
He continued: “I made a formal complaint to the PSNI in Strabane about this hate crime and expect them to act swiftly and apprehend those responsible on the basis of the firm information available.
“There is no doubt that these and other incidents over recent weeks, whereby the National flag has been stolen from the Hunger Strike Memorial at Townsend Street Strabane, are the work of loyalists with the items stolen destined for 11th night bonfires.
“The virtual silence of Unionist politicians to these perennial acts of hate needs to end. The message must go out loud and clear from all political leaders that the burning of emblems, election posters designed to cause maximum offence is not acceptable.
“Similarly, regardless of whether monuments and memorials are dedicated to republican dead or British war dead- they are important places of commemoration and remembrance within communities and should never be subject to any type of interference.”